Skip Navigation
NPR News
Kenneth Pattengale (left) and Joey Ryan, who record as The Milk Carton Kids. Their new album is called The Ash & Clay. (Courtesy of the artist)

The Milk Carton Kids: At Life's Crossroads, A Duo Looks Both Ways

by NPR Staff
Mar 23, 2013 (Weekend Edition Saturday)

Hear this

This text will be replaced
Launch in player

Share this


Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan were doing just fine as solo performers. Then one night, Ryan walked into a bar where Pattengale was playing.

"I heard Kenneth perform a song that he had written from the perspective of a dead dog, only very recently having been hit by a truck," Ryan says, wryly. "And it was that sort of uplifting material that drew us together."

Now, they're a duo: The Milk Carton Kids. They have been compared to Simon & Garfunkel for their close-harmony vocals and songs that are precise, softly uttered poems. And when they banter, they sound a bit like a long-married couple.

Pattengale and Ryan spoke with NPR's Scott Simon about their upcoming release, The Ash & Clay, and about how they met their respective guitars.


Interview Highlights

On the title track

Joey Ryan: "I give all due credit to Kenneth for taking the lead on the writing of the title track. ... [We both] have turned 30 recently. And I think for the first time, we're in a unique position of having as much to look back on and to miss — you know, to remember fondly and also to regret — as we have to look forward to."

On the song "Snake Eyes"

Joey Ryan: "That's one of the more impressionistic songs, lyrically, that's come out of our collaboration. And it's sort of a meditation on nostalgia. You're looking back on something usually fondly, it implies. But at the same time, it's a very sad notion to acknowledge that it's gone. So I think the lyrics in that song, circumspectly, get at a meditation on that theme."

On their guitars

Joey Ryan: "I play a 1951 Gibson J-45. I've got it tuned down a whole step, and it leaves off on the low end right where Kenneth's picks up on the high end. He plays a 1954 Martin O-15 ... A fan — back in the days when I had no business having any fans at all — decided somehow that she wanted to give me a guitar. And that's the only guitar that I have and the only guitar that I play."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Read full story transcript

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR

Visitor comments

on:

NCPR is supported by:

This is a Visitor-Supported website.